Wage workers in a 'homeland township' : their experiences in finding, maintaining and losing employment

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Workers domiciled in Qwaqwa, South Africa's smallest 'homeland', experience high rates of unemployment and job instability. Yet most terminations of employment are employee-instigated. This dissertation examines the reasons for employment instability among wage workers resident in a housing section in Phuthaditjhaba, the 'homeland's' only urban area. The approach adopted in the dissertation is primarily ethnographic. It describes the everyday experiences of African workers and treats their own perspectives of their working lives as central. Quantitative and qualitative data, collected from two samples drawn from the population in the housing area selected for study, are presented. It is argued that employment instability must be understood as a consequence of a web of interrelated circumstances and cannot be explained in terms of any one single causal factor. The following employment and employment-related circumstances are examined: workers' views of, and reactions to, wages and working conditions; problems with transport between places of work and home, and with workplace accommodation; conflicts of interest arising from domestic pressures undermining workers' ability to remain in a job; and the experience of joblessness. These various factors are then drawn together to show that workers do not perceive these factors in isolation from one another, but that they experience the oppressive conditions of their domestic and working lives as a totality. Any attempts to find ways to increase workers' job stability will have to look both within and beyond the workplace.

Bibliography: pages 254-266.